County Refuses to Alter Las Virgenes Development Plan Despite Complaints

Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles County officials, rejecting complaints from the Las Virgenes school and water districts that the county is ignoring its own development restrictions, Wednesday refused a request to update land-use plans for the area.

The source of the two districts' concern is a disputed development approved by the county in March on the former site of the Renaissance Pleasure Faire in Agoura. Developer Brian Heller won approval to build 150 homes where the county plan would have allowed only 103.

"All we're doing is asking them to quit changing the rules," said Albert D. Marley, superintendent of the Las Virgenes Unified School District.

Fearing that the Heller project could be a sign of things to come, the school district and the Las Virgenes Municipal Water District raised the issue last month by asking the county to update its development plan for the area.

Budget Constraints

But Wednesday, an official of the county Regional Planning Department said budget constraints will prevent updating of the plan this year. But the department did not issue an opinion as to whether such an update was needed, said John Huttinger, assistant administrator.

In addition, Dave Vannatta, an aide to Supervisor Mike Antonovich, who represents the area and who supported the Heller project, said the county generally abides by the plan anyway. The Heller project was an exception, he said.

Shortly after the project was approved, the Las Virgenes Homeowners Federation and the Sierra Club filed a lawsuit against the county seeking to overturn the decision. The suit is pending.

Water district General Manager Edward E. McCombs said the district intends to file a legal brief supporting the project's opponents in the next several weeks. Marley said the school district is considering filing a similar brief.

The school district has an enrollment of about 9,300 students who live in an area from Westlake Village to Calabasas. Marley said the school district used county development projections in planning to build a $5-million elementary school and to expand three existing schools in anticipation of an enrollment of 13,000 by the year 2000. If the county does not follow those projections, Marley said, the school district's expansion effort would be inadequate.

Connection Fees

The water district serves about 49,000 people in roughly the same area as the school district. Builders of new developments are charged connection fees to pay for future pumping stations, water lines and storage tanks, McCombs said.

But if development is allowed to exceed the county plan, the district would need to build unanticipated facilities, McCombs said. To raise money to make it possible to serve the additional customers, the district would have to increase water rates for residents "who have already paid their fair share," he said.

The school and water districts "have a legitimate concern," Vannatta said. "They want some understanding, which we think we've provided them, that we intend to honor and respect the general plan."

The water district's own survey found that 5% fewer housing units than projected in the county plan were approved between 1981 and 1987 for the Las Virgenes area, Vannatta said.

Nonetheless, McCombs, citing the Heller project and several large tracts still under consideration, said, "The point is still a valid one, and we'll continue to pursue it."

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